Study Links Hormone Therapy to Higher Risk of Breast Cancer Death
(Just another reason why alternative answers for HRT are so important!)
Hormone replacement therapy, a common treatment for post-menopausal women, may be twice as likely to die from breast cancer as women who never underwent hormone replacement, according to new research published Wednesday, October 18, 2010 by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The connection between hormone replacement and breast cancer has been established, but this research contradicts the expectations of many medical experts that breast cancers caused by hormone replacement would be less aggressive and would be detected sooner.
The research, conducted by the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), was an 11-year follow up of 13,000 participants from other WHI studies. The breast cancers diagnosed among those on hormone replacement were more likely to be advanced at the time of diagnosis, they theorize, because the estrogen supplements make breast tumors harder to diagnose.
The study found small but significant increases in the harmful effects of hormone replacement. Among hormone users, there were 5.3 per 10,000 women per year, compared to versus 3.4 deaths per 10,000 generally. Nearly 24 percent of the breast cancer patients on hormone replacement had tumors that had spread to the lymph nodes, compared with 16 percent of women taking placebos.
This latest research is yet another blow to the treatment that was once considered not only safe, but beneficial because it was thought to protect against heart disease and osteoporosis.
The Women's Health Initiative was also behind a landmark 2002 study proving the connection between hormone replacement and the risk of breast cancer. At the time, millions of women stopped hormone replacement, resulting in a drop in the nation's breast cancer rate.
Researchers studied the most commonly prescribed hormone treatment, Pfizer's blockbuster drug PremPro, which is a combination of estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic hormone similar to progesterone. Millions of American women still use hormones to ease hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.
The Holistic Approach In Treating Menopause
The Eastern approach to treating menopause as a holistic therapy is connecting the relationship between the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual outlook. The Eastern medicine paradigm treats the whole person, as the belief is that nothing works independent of each other, but in conjunction with one another. This paradigm also sees symptoms as a differential factor. As an example; hot flashes and night sweats are one diagnosis where as, hot flashes, night sweats with cold hands and feet is a completely different diagnosis. The Eastern approach also looks at lifestyle concerns, environmental issues and diet, nutritional choices and exercise as a complete effort in treating menopause.
With this said, a holistic approach must have a course of action. A holistic therapy needs to address all of the above aspects (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) in order to be whole. I have many women come into my practice to tell me how they have begun dabbling in alternative medicine for their situation. I do think it is wonderful that more and more patients are becoming empowered and willing to take responsibility for their health and health care. What I would love to see more of is addressing all aspects of their whole selves.
For example, I had a new patient come to me for hot flashes that are worse in the morning, with fatigue, loose stool and frequent urination. Her stress levels were extremely high and she was constantly complaining about gas and bloating. Her solution was to take Vitex (chasteberry) to address hot flashes and DHEA, because she read somewhere this could help. She was taking an over the counter remedy for her loose stool and a prescription from her doctor for the frequent urination. She did nothing to address her stress levels and was eating whatever she wanted because she was so stressed and called herself an emotional eater. This was her holistic approach.
Unfortunately, not only was she taking an inappropriate combination of medications and herbal supplements, she was not taking the correct doses. She was not addressing the root of her problem (menopause agitated by stress) and was sabotaging herself with what she was putting in her mouth. She was simply addressing symptoms, which is no better than a Western approach. Of course, symptoms must be addressed, but the root of the problem will continue to remain and rebound back into her life the minute her remedies for the symptoms wear off. By reaching down to the root of the problem and rebuilding and fortifying the foundation, she can affectively resolve so much more of her imbalances.
A holistic course of action for peri-menopause and menopause needs to address the change in the body's physical characteristics. The mental and emotional side of menopause is often an even larger hurdle to overcome, as our attitudes and beliefs create our mind/body structure. Elements that are seldom looked at during this seventh cycle of life include sleep patterns, bowel movements, urination, digestion and the assimilation of food in the body, body temperature in general, body temperature in specific areas, movement and exercise, food choices, situations that bring us stress and joy and mental attitudes that contribute to our spiritual growth.
A Differential Diagnosis of Symptoms
The Eastern approach to treating any disorder is by treating the root of the problem. Branch treatments (treating just the symptoms one sees) are the equivalent to putting a band-aid on a broken bone. Treating perimenopause and menopause requires an in depth look at signs and symptoms, past medical history, family medical history and every symptom or sign, even if it does not seem related to the current problem.
When differentiating such symptoms, it is important to realize which are the most dominant set of symptoms and which are secondary. Not everyone would have all symptoms in one category. They may have a few in one category and a few in another. The more dominant or most symptoms from one category is usually the predominant deficiency. Once you can identify the more predominant deficiency then it is easier to pinpoint remedy-specific formulations to treat and tonify the situation. Look at the symptom differentials below. Which group do you fall into?
Blood/body/essence fluid deficiency
Dizziness, exhaustion, tinnitus, malar flush, night sweats, hot flashes, mental restlessness, heat in palms and feet, sore weak lower back and/or knees, dry mouth, dry throat, dry hair, dry skin, itching, constipation, anxiety, irritability, headaches or cold feet. Premature graying of hair, low sperm count in males, decreased menstrual flow in women, infertility in women or heel pain. The tongue often presents as a red tongue body with little or no coat or peeling coat. The pulse can feel empty or fine, deep or weak. It may also appear to be overflowing or in excess closest to the wrist.
Hot flashes, but cold hands and feet (extremities), night sweating (early morning), pale face, depression, chilliness, backache, edema of the ankles. Pale or dark complexion, listless spirit, an aversion to cold, low sex drive, weak or cold low back, frequent urination or clear and profuse, clear vaginal discharge and/or edema. The tongue is pale tender, sometimes with tooth marks, and a white and/or slippery tongue coat with a fine deep pulse.
BOTH an energetic as well as blood/body fluid deficiency
Hot flashes, but cold hands and feet, (especially fingers and toes) nightsweats, frequent urination, which tends to look pale, flushing around the neck, when talking, slight agitation, chilliness, dry throat, dizziness, tinnitus, backache, poor memory or vivid dreams and insomnia.. Tongue can be pale or red depends on predominate deficiency. Pulse feels empty or very fine and rapid.
Additional underlying patterns that aggravate the above symptoms include Dampness (being overweight, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, a feeling of heaviness in the body) Vital Energy (Qi) Stagnation (tiredness, fatigue, listless speech) or Blood Stasis (sharp stabbing pains anywhere in the body, poor circulation).
Once you have determined your pattern, it is a good idea to confirm this with your alternative health care practitioner.
A good place to start is at http://www.acufinder.com
Find a practitioner that is certified as an herbalist who has experience in this area of treatment.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit
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